The grand palaces and princely villas of the Bavarian Wittelsbach dynasty—Nymphenburg, Schleissheim, the vast Residenzschloss in Munich, and others—impress visitors with their great halls and intimate cabinets, dramatic stairhalls and seemingly endless rows of sumptuously decorated rooms. But these dazzling residences did not exist solely to delight the eye. In The Utility of Splendor, Samuel John Klingensmith discusses how, over the years, successive rulers reshaped the internal spaces of their residences to reflect changes in the elaborate ceremony that regulated daily life at court.
Drawing on a broad range of sources, including building documents, correspondence, diaries, and court regulations, Klingensmith investigates the intricacies of Bavarian court practice and shows that Versailles was only one among several influences on German palace planning. Klingensmith offers a cogent, detailed understanding of the relations between architectural spaces and the ceremonial, social, and private life that both required and used them. Handsomely illustrated with photographs and plans, The Utility of Splendor will appeal to anyone interested in how life was lived among the nobility during the last centuries of the old regime.
Samuel John Klingensmith (1949-1986) was assistant professor of art history at Tulane University.